Like most of our chosen favourites, if we wanted to know what made them tick, we should get to know the context in which they operated. This is particularly so in the case of Nehemiah, and to which readers are referred to earlier chapters of this book and the Books of Nehemiah and of his close contemporary (another amazing fellow) Ezra. Nehemiah appears on the scene nearly one hundred years after the first exiles returned to Judah – and things weren’t looking good – and if the truth be known, other some notable highlights, the glorious return that had been anticipated, culminating with the arrival on the scene of Israel’s Messiah, had not materialised and wouldn’t do so for another 400 years. Nehemiah’s job was interesting – he was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, there in Babylon, watching the fortunes of the returnees with interest and concern from afar. While his job meant that if, when tasting the king’s food and drink, it was found to be poisoned, he would be the first to know, but it was a responsible position and he was able to gain the king’s confidence – a thing he could exploit in bring about the purposes of God. News about those who had returned was not good – “Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” Nehemiah 1:2,3. Where Nehemiah’s greatness stood out was his prayerful response. “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned …” Nehemiah 4:3-7. This was followed by Nehemiah claiming God’s promise and asking God’s favour regards what he could do about remedying the situation. The rest of the Book of Nehemiah revolves round narrative of his practical response, including supervising building the wall and encouraging and organising the people, often taking the side of the underdog and joining with them, while at the same time taking to task without fear or favour those who had acted wrongly, despite all sorts of barriers – both from within and without, but always prayerfully entreating God, often with pithy, down to earth prayers. One can’t help but admire his tenacity and long for Nehemiah types in our own day!